Merriam- Webster Dictionary defines limitation as this:
: the act of controlling the size or extent of something : the act of limiting something
: something that controls how much of something is possible or allowed
: something (such as a lack of ability or strength) that controls what a person is able to do
Over the last several years I have had numerous limitations set. Prior to October 8, 2011 I had brain surgery for a severe Chiari malformation (mine is a type III), a diagnosis of Lupus, and a diagnosis of Cryoglobulenemia.
I also went through a divorce, had a nervous break down, and remarried my high school sweet heart.
(No major changes or anything.)
After my Chiari surgery, I needed to learn to balance again when I walked. I had to learn how to cite my arms and legs properly and retrain my brain as to where my body parts were located. I feared I would never eat without dropping my food, drooling, or missing my mouth. My limitations at that point were bound around severe pain, swelling in my skull, balance issues, and coordination. Over time my chiari symptoms that were present pre-operatively began decreasing and with that, my abilities to eat, walk, and have spatial referencing reinstated increased.
The hurdle of overcoming brain surgery was significant, however the limitations that were involved before surgery had become so debilitating I was ready to try to have my life back. I fought through those days at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and my case was so significant that they use the surgery video when teaching the neuro students at Columbia.
With Lupus, I learned when to push my limitations and how to take care of myself properly with nutrition, holistic care, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction.
With Cryoglobulenemia, I learned how to maintain my body temperature be consistent with exercise, and monitor my skin for any changes.
When October 8, 2011 happened, I had already heard many friends and family members say: “Oh, Colleen, you are DONE going through major things for a long, long time”.
This was not the case.
Since that date almost 4 years ago I have learned to walk again several times, I have learned to eat again, how to breathe again, what it feels like to learn to speak again, write again, brush my teeth, and how to go to the bathroom. I knew my limitations two months post trauma were severe. I knew walking would prove challenging, never even considered the option of running or cycling again. I had so much skin loss that the thought of even bathing was such a distant dream that I never imagined I would ever swim again. Throughout each phase of this process to return to “normalcy”, I have needed to push my limits in order to step one more step, stand on my own five more seconds, chew a piece of solid food, and cry more and more tears until I could decipher basic math again. When a person is saved from death and brought back to life, EVERY thing that one does is exceeding a limitation simply due to the fact that they are alive.
I have been told countless times that I am an “Unexpected Survivor” by medical staff who cared for me throughout my critical phase.
As we begin to understand that we CAN defy the odds, it creates a drive within us to PUSH even further. For those of us that are Type A personality athletes, having the PUSH drive is a blessing and a curse.
Defying my obvious limitations has been part of what has allowed me to not only survive but to thrive. Prior to this trauma running was hard, triathlons were hard, let alone throw a broken body in the mix and try them again. I had never completed a half marathon, Olympic triathlon, half Iron Triathlon, or marathon before October 8, 2011. When asked why I took a leap in distance events POST trauma, I said “Well, I lived”.
Suddenly things that once limited me, (lupus, chiari, cryo) became trivial. I SURVIVED being run over by a freight truck so I had the capacity to do much more than I ever knew my body was capable of, or did I? I dealt with pain on a scale I never knew one was capable of handling, I went through surgery after surgery and relearn basic skills over and over. I could be resilient, or could I?
Here is where understanding (or trying) to understand my limitations has become muddied. I am GOAL oriented. Seems most Type personalities are that way. I need a strong GOAL to work towards so that I can accomplish it, check it off and then GROW even more. When is enough, enough?
Dealing with physical manifestations from a trauma, is only the foundation of work that has been prepared for me. I must also learn to deal with the PTSD, and how my psychological well-being has been effected. I must learn how to limit myself within a sensible measure as to not cause more harm, rather to strengthen and be pleased with where I am and celebrate those moments. I’ve learned that for most trauma survivors, there is a yearning to DO as much as one can, all of the time, because we have learned too painfully how quickly life can be taken away.
I have outgrown almost all of my limitations at this point. I am now at a point of pondering the horizon and asking myself, “How much further, faster, and longer, do I want to go?”. Most importantly, I need to ask myself “WHY?”.
We all have reasons for WHY we push our own daily limits in this life. I am learning as I continue on this journey that sometimes surpassing a limitation and then basking in the celebration of that accomplishment, and working to become as strong and resilient in that one accomplishment at a time is enough. God created this temple that allows me to sit here and type this blog that I’ve worked on sporadically throughout the day. I believe in his infinite wisdom, compassion, and love he has allowed me to surpass any “limitations” that were presented to me to show me how mighty and strong this temple truly is.
May we always examine our own limitations, and choose growth and strength over pride and harm. My hearts desire prior to 10/8/11 was to complete a full Iron Man distance triathlon, and that desire is more present now than ever. My limitations are also present. Accepting that we need to honor and take care of ourselves in the midst of battling our own race is humbling, and takes an incredible amount of courage. May I accept my limitations, with courage, and honor myself where I am on this journey. May I never accept defeat, yet always celebrate each limitation that has been defeated.